Kawana Waters State College recognises the valuable contribution technology can make to 21st century learners. A BYOx program is seen as a way to enhance student engagement in the learning process, with students having familiarity and ownership of their learning devices. The college decided to engage prep students in the program to normalise technology in the classroom .
The college identified the need for thorough preparation and planning for what would become known as the iSmart program. In 2013, the college conducted a needs analysis of information communication and technology (ICT) issues in early years classrooms. This highlighted the requirement for touch screen devices as younger students had difficulties with mice and keyboards. The iPad was selected as the most appropriate device based on significant research and evaluation of a range of devices during Semester 1 last year.
In Semester 2, 2013, teachers were provided with access to iPads and professional development for six months prior to the planned implementation. This supported a change in culture with the introduction of contemporary teaching practices suited to the use of mobile devices in the learning environment.
Principal Paul Williamson said: ‘Extensive research has shown children learn best by absorbing information through a variety of modes, so we consider the use of these electronic devices to be another valuable way of learning in the classroom. While our early years students already rely on modes such as movement, painting, drawing, speaking, writing, construction and socio-dramatic play, contemporary digital communication tools like iPads, interactive whiteboards and computers also form an integral part of our teaching and learning program to promote engagement with ideas and deep learning. The iSmart program allows our prep students to enhance their understanding of early literacy and numeracy concepts through the use of a range of educational apps that are accessible via iPads.’
The iPad program for the students began in Semester 2, 2013 with iPads provided by the school. For Semester 1, 2014 parents were encouraged to purchase iPads for their children. Students who did not have a personal device have been provided with access to a school iPad or received a free iPad from a local charity
All prep students now use iPads, which are delivered and collected by parents or a sibling daily. The device not only enhances the students’ learning and engagement while at school, but feedback from parents shows it also increases opportunities to engage with their child’s learning at home. Parents and students learn together to use apps that develop pre- and early literacy and numeracy understandings.
Mr Williamson added: ‘As part of our iSmart program, all 75 prep students at the college are encouraged to use an iPad in the classroom each day. We have ensured that every prep student has access to this technology, as it is critical that all students are provided with an equal opportunity to learn and develop, regardless of background or economic status.’
The BYOx program will continue for the new cohort of prep students in 2015. When the current prep students move into Year 1 next year, the BYOx program will continue with them into that year level. The Year 1 and 2 teachers have already been provided with iPads and have been trained in their use and pedagogy realignment. They have also been provided with access to an iPad trolley for use with Year 1 and 2 classes, allowing teachers to change and add programs to iPads simultaneously.